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Deluxe Scanner Camera 


Make Projects 

build, hack, tweak, share, discover. 

Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Written By: Mike Golembewski 


Computer (1) 

Dremel rotary tool (1) 


Mac computer (1) 

Needlenose pliers (1) 

Ruler (1) 

X-Acto knife (1) 


Canon CanoScan (1) 

Foamcore board (1) 
/ used Gator board. 

Cardboard (1) 

Heavy cardstock (1) 

Tracing paper (1) 

Duct taped) 

Magnifying glass (1) 


Hobbv knifed) 

Electrical Tape (1) 

Velcro tape (1) 

Paper d) 

Sandpaper (1) 

Tweezers (1) 


Photographs taken with the Simple Scanner Camera typically feature heavy vignetting, 
where brightness drops off farther away from the center. Also, the scanner's lamp can add 
undesired interference to a shot's lighting. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

If you're willing to mod your scanner and dedicate it to camera use, you can get higher 
image quality and greater flexibility. Once you make these modifications you won't be able to 
use it as a normal scanner. And if you mess things up by working too quickly, you run the 
risk of rendering your scanner permanently and totally useless. Assuming you're still with 
me, read on. 

Step 1 — Build the baseboard. 

• Cut a piece of black foamcore that 
fits exactly over your scanner's 
glass bed, then cut a 7" square 
hole out of the center. This will be 
the baseboard for your camera. 

Step 2 — Make the boxes. 

• Make 2 boxes that slide together for focusing. Using cardboard and glue, make a 7"x7" 
inner box with both ends open, and then an outer box with a lid on top, slightly larger than 
the inner box, so that they nest snugly together. Line all box edges with duct tape. 

• Cut a 3 1 /2"-diameter hole in the lid of the outer box. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 3 — Make the lens board and aperture cards. 

• Remove the lens from your magnifying glass and cut a hole in the center of a 6"x6" 
cardboard square to hold it. Tape the edges of the lens securely into place on the 
cardboard. This is your lens board. Out of heavy cardstock, cut a set of covers for the 
lens, with different-sized holes in the middle. 

• These are the aperture cards, which you'll tape over the lens to control how much light 
gets into the camera, just like an iris in a regular camera. 

Step 4 — Assemble the camera. 

• Fit one end of the inner box into the 
baseboard and duct tape it in place 
from the inside. 

• Slip the outer box over the inner 
box and make sure you can slide it 
back and forth. Tape the lens board 
to the outer box with the lens 
centered over the 3V2" hole. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 5 — Take some photos. 

• Your scanner camera is ready to 
go! To focus it, tape 

• a piece of tracing paper over the 
hole at the back of the baseboard, 
then point the lens toward a brightly 
lit scene. Slide the outer box back 
and forth until the image comes 
into focus on the tracing paper. 
With my 2V2" magnifying glass 
lens, I needed a focal distance 
(distance between lens and image) 
of about 7" to 12" for objects in the 
same room. 

• Tape the camera to the front of 
your scanner and start up your 
imaging application. Use the 
Preview button for fine-tuning the 
focus, and when you're ready, click 
Scan to take a picture. To adjust 
the image brightness, try different 
lens aperture cards. 

Step 6 

• Simple scanner camera photographs: Traffic study at Notting Hill Gate, London; 
Moreen and Rowan, Brighton; traffic study at Queensgate, London. 


© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 7 — Deluxe Scanner Camera — Install the software. 

• First you need to install open source drivers from the SANE project (Scanner Access Now 
Easy) that allow your scanner to skip the calibration step and take scans even after being 
hacked. Download the latest version of the TWAIN SANE interface at and follow the installation instructions. 

• You should be able to access your scanner via the SANE-TWAIN plugin from any TWAIN- 
compliant imaging application. 

• With the software installed and the scanner plugged in, you should see a new SANE item 
in your Mac's System Preferences. Open it up, find "plustek" in the driver list, and click its 
Configure button. This will open the preferences file for the back end of your scanner, 
where we'll need to change a few lines: 

• On line 105, change option skipCalibration to option skipCalibration 1 

• On line 111, change option skipFine to option skipFine 1 

• On line 116, change option skipFineWhite to option skipFineWhite 1 

• Click OK to confirm the changes. Your scanner software is now ready to use with a 
modified scanner camera. 

Step 8 — Open up the scanner. 

• Remove the lid from the scanner; 
you won't be needing it anymore. 
Two gray rails run along the long 
sides of the scanner and are held 
in place with tape. Insert the tip of 
your hobby knife under each rail 
and gently pry it up until it 
detaches. Remove the rails, then 
lift off the glass plate. Set the glass 
and rails aside, and try not to touch 
the glass more than you need to. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 9 — Take apart the scan head assembly. 

III! •— 


_ - 

• Locate the scan head assembly, 
which pulls itself back and forth on 
a geared thread. Gently pull it to 
the middle of the scanner, then 
orient the scanner so that the scan 
assembly runs left to right and the 
ribbon cable that feeds it bends 
toward you. 

• The assembly has 2 main 
components: a gray metal housing 
that contains motors and 
electronics, and the thinner, black 
plastic sensor bar with the image 
sensor and lamp. Find and remove 
the white plastic tabs at each end 
of the sensor bar and set them 

• The sensor bar is secured to the 
scanner housing by a metal clasp 
on its left side. Use pliers to bend 
the clasp so that it no longer holds 
the peg. You'll need to bend it back 
into place later, so don't mangle it. 
There is also a small spring on the 
right side of the scanner housing, 
beneath the sensor bar. Take it out 
and set it aside. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 10 — Remove the sensor bar. 

• The sensor bar connects to the 
scanner housing by a white ribbon 
cable. Carefully remove the ribbon 
cable from the sensor bar by 
slowly pulling it straight out. Don't 
wiggle it. 

• Place the sensor bar on a clean 
surface and keep the rest of the 
scanner and the pieces you 
removed in a safe place. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 11 — Remove the contact image sensor (CIS ). 

• From this point on, you need to be 
careful. The contact image sensor 
(CIS) is the green PCB inside the 
sensor bar. It's delicate, and 
damaging it renders your scanner 
useless. The CIS is also what lets 
us make this camera; it's easy to 
hack and uses very little power, 
allowing the scanner to be powered 
by a laptop USB connection. 

• Place the sensor bar facedown. 
Carefully remove the 3 pieces of 
tape covering the CIS and set them 
aside. Next, remove the 10 molded 
plastic tabs that hold the CIS in its 
black plastic housing. Use an X- 
Acto knife to lightly score along the 
base of each tab until it falls off. 
Use tweezers to remove each 
detached tab. Make sure that 
neither the knife blade nor the 
tweezers touch the CIS. 

• Take your time; this should take 
20-30 minutes. 

• Remove the green PCB from the 
sensor bar. Use as little force as 
possible. If it won't lift out easily, 
work on the tabs some more, then 
try again. Once it's removed, place 
it gently in a clean, safe place, 
away from your work area. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 12 — Modify the sensor housing. 

• You need to allow as much light 
from the lens as possible to hit the 
CIS. To do this, you'll modify its 
plastic housing. First, carefully 
remove the clear plastic prism and 
the black rectangle of dense plastic 
that run the length of the sensor 

• Now you'll want to cut out the 
middle and flatten the top of the 
sensor housing, so that more light 
can get through to the CIS and the 
sides won't cast shadows. Use the 
Dremel with a sanding band bit to 
grind the top of the sensor bar flat. 
Work at a slow speed — if you try 
to work too quickly, the plastic will 
melt. Once you've flattened down 
the top of the sensor bar housing, 
use the abrasive point tip to clear 
out a long slot in middle. 

• Clean off excess shreds of plastic 
with your X-Acto knife and fine 
sandpaper. Vacuum everything up 
at this point — you don't want any 
of that black plastic dust getting 
onto the sensor or into the scanner. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 13 — Cover the lamp and replace the CIS . 

• Bring the CIS board back to your 
workspace. The white tab sticking 
up at 1 end is the LED light source. 

• Cover it completely on both sides 
with electrical tape to prevent any 
light from escaping. Then insert the 
CIS back into the modified housing 
and replace the original pieces of 
black tape on the back of the bar. 
Cut a piece of paper to fit over the 
entire bottom of the sensor bar and 
tape it in place with small pieces of 
duct tape. 

Step 14 — Put the scanner back together. 



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• Take the scanner back to your 
workspace. Reconnect the white 
ribbon cable to the sensor bar. 
Place the sensor bar into position, 
and bend the metal clasp back into 
place. Replace the spring and the 
white plastic clasps. Add 2 folded- 
over tabs of duct tape to the 
scanner assembly, next to the 
metal bar. These will help prevent 
reflections from the metal bar from 
affecting your image. 

• Replace the glass plate — make 
sure it's clean first! Reattach the 
gray plastic strips. If you need to, 
use tape to secure them. There! 
Your scanner is back in one 
(modified) piece. 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 15 — Attach the camera. 

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• Use velcro tape to attach your 
camera to the scanner. Attach the 
pointy side of the velcro to the 
glass (to avoid scratches). Run 
duct tape around the outside of the 
baseplate, to keep out all outside 

• Your camera is complete. Plug it 
into your computer, start up your 
imaging application, and load the 
SANE-TWAIN plugin. If everything 
went according to plan, you'll be 
taking scanner photos in no time. 
Follow the method described in 
Step 5 of the simple camera. 
Explore the options in the SANE- 
TWAIN interface; they give you a 
high level of control over the image 
quality. Enjoy, and good luck! 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 16 — Tips for the Scanner Photographer 

1 , 



• Once you've made the deluxe 
scanner camera, think of the 
scanner itself as a photo back, and 
try using it with other camera 
bodies. I've assembled scanner 
cameras from Brownie box 
cameras, cardboard boxes, PVC 
tubes, and even old stage lights 
and magic lanterns. With a little 
effort, you can also mount a 
scanner camera back on a large- 
format monorail or field camera. 

• Large-format lenses for cameras 
are expensive, but you can find 
lenses that may work just as well 
inside old photo enlargers, 
overhead projectors, stage lights, 
and even toys! 

• The nice thing about the CIS-based 
scanners used for this project is 
that they're powered via USB. 
Hook your camera up to your 
laptop, and take it on the road. 

• The motion distortion is the most 
interesting thing about the scanner 
camera. Spend some time getting 
to understand it, and you'll start 
thinking about time and movement 
in photography in a whole new way 
— and this will start to inform your 
traditional photography as well. 

• For more photos taken with the 
simple and deluxe scanner 
cameras, see . 

© Make Projects 

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Deluxe Scanner Camera 

Step 17 

• Deluxe Scanner camera photographs: Portrait of Abigail Durrant, London (opposite); traffic 
study with moving bus at Hyde Park, London; portrait of Astrid Askberger, London; in the 
pub at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, Camber Sands, U.K. 

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 14 , page 81. 

This document was last generated on 2012-1 1-02 08:12:12 PM. 

© Make Projects 

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